The Tower of London is the number one paid-for tourist attraction in London – about two and a half million people visit every year. Mr. Tea and I have often been a part of those numbers over the years. We both like history, especially Royal history, and always enjoy a trip to the Tower. Having our heads intact when we leave is an added bonus.
You can easily spend an entire day at the Tower of London (Top Ten Things To See and Do at the Tower of London). I especially enjoy viewing the Crown Jewels; stunning doesn’t even begin to describe their beauty. My favourite thing at the Tower of London is the prisoner graffiti in the Inner and Outer Ward Towers (many prisoners carved graffiti into the walls during the 1530s-1670s).
With such a gruesome, violent history, you wouldn’t think that the Tower of London could have any type of connection with something as gentle and gracious as tea. But it does.
In the late 19th century, the area surrounding the Tower of London (Tower Hill), was bleak and boring. Although the Tower was a tourist attraction, facilities for those tourists were rare. Influenced by its nearness to the docks, the neighbourhood was dominated by oppressive Victorian offices and warehouses. One of those was the unsightly Mazawattee Tea warehouse.
Mazawattee Tea was, at that time, one of the most important and most advertised tea firms in England. Its owners were making a small fortune in the tea industry. Their thriving offices and warehouses and vaults were located in a large building at the top of Tower Hill. The building was so tall that it blocked all the good views of the Tower – including views from All Hallows church, its next door neighbour. The vicar was not amused. A Tower Hill “improvement plan” was hatched. (Can you see where this is going?)
To make a long story short, the idea was to purchase and demolish the worst eyesores and generally give the area a good tidy up. A charitable trust was formed and monies raised. Improvements were gradual, and then the war intervened. During the blitz, many of the target properties purchased by the trust, yet still standing, were damaged – including the Mazawattee Tea warehouse.
By 1951, the entire Mazawattee Tea warehouse had finally been destroyed – but its vaults remained. Today, they are known as the Tower Vaults shops. If you have ever visited the Tower of London and done a bit of shopping at Tower Vaults, you have consequently been “inside” the historic Mazawattee Tea warehouse.
Tea and the Tower – an astonishing blend.